Are Closings Around Sundance Square a Problem?

At least three restaurants in and around Sundance Square are planning on closing their doors -- leaving many wondering about the state of entertainment in downtown Fort Worth.

Chili's was just the first to announce they were leaving downtown. Dallas-based Brinker International, the owner of Chili's, confirmed Monday that the popular bar and grill on Main Street adjacent to Sundance Square is planning to shut down for good on Jan. 26.

And they aren't the only ones.

La Madeleine also confirmed they are planning to close their Sundance Square location this Sunday. While they wouldn't reveal exactly why, an employee hinted on the FortWorthology blog that it was due to business fluctuations and because the lease was up.

NBCDFW's Lindsay Wilcox heard similar rumblings from business owners in downtown Fort Worth.  After serving pizza for 15 years, Picchi Pacchi owner Kim Tran said she is planning on not renewing her lease when it expires.

"I think I have to go," owner Kim Tran told us, "because I can't afford the price."

Brinker said they decided to close the Chili's location after reviewing sales figures ... once their lease was up.

Restaurants aren't the only ones affected.  After 13 years of booming business, The Pour House served its last drink on New Year's Eve. Owner Eric Tschetter is relocating his popular pub outside of Sundance Square due to a lawsuit with his landlord.

UPDATE: According to a press release from Sundance Square, the entertainment district isn't nearly as bad off as recent closings would have you believe. (read the whole release here)

We spoke with Carolyn Alvey, who said 97 percent of Sundance Square retail leases were occupied and 94 percent of office space was occupied as well. She also mentioned restaurant sales increased from 2007 to November 2008 by 4.5 percent in the full-service catagory.

There's also good news for the La Madeleine location -- they are close to a deal with another restaurant, though won't announce the name until the contract's been inked.

Still, there is some unclarity on which of the businesses mentioned above actually sit in Sundance Square. According to multiple sources involved with Sundance Square's operation, the Chili's mentioned in both of our stories is not a Sundance tenant -- though it is a "marketing partner" and appears on materials for the district, including their official map.

Even Alvey agrees, "The public doesn't know where Sundance Square ends or begins."

We're similarly confused; the press release states Sundance Square is a 35-block district (but doesn't give end/beginning streets) and our count shows only 25 blocks on their online map.

The complicated matter seems to stem from the fact that Sundance Square only owns leases on certain properties within that map, while other adjacent properties may be owned by other landlords. We've asked officials for a map of which businesses are owned by the Sundance group, but one was not immediately available.

Rents for businesses in Sundance are based on earning projections for that specific business, meaning 8.0's rent will differ from that of Riscky's. According to Alvey, rents can adjust if businesses' profits are higher or lower than projected.

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